The month of April was a wonderful month for Autism Awareness. There were a large number of organizations that decided to light it up blue around the world and fundraising efforts were strong throughout the month. I was able to participate in the ACT Today! For Military Families run in Mission Bay Park on April 7th. I learned so many things at the run, aside from the heart-warming message of community support and continued enlightenment to promote treatability for Autism, I learned that you should train properly before engaging in a 5k run!
While I experienced shortness of breath, numbness in my right leg, all over body pain, and a lovely glistening aura during my run/walk it was truly one of the highlights of my life. This was because along the way there were people, strangers encouraging me to just keep going, cheerleaders on the sidelines letting me know that I only had a little ways to go until I reached the end and I was still doing great. When I found that my feet would not longer cooperate and run when I wanted them to, I walked beside moms, aunts, grandmothers, and siblings who were happy to finish the course. That's what the run was all about, finishing the course, no matter how you did it--finding your own path and being encouraged by others along the way.
With each stride, no matter how clumsy it was, I thought about the obstacles that my son and other children on the Autism Spectrum have overcome. When I wondered if someone had miscalculated the route and not placed the mile markers correctly, I chuckled thinking that there were some days and activities that must seem extremely long, cumbersome, and draining to our children, particularly when they are thrust into a world that neither understands nor suits them, yet forces compliance.
I saw wonderful increased interest in Autism and ways to help in the month of April. Now that we are near the middle of May, I wonder if the interest will be the same for those who do not have a direct connection into the world of Autism Awareness. There is still a need to lend a helping hand to our children and funds still need to be raised in order to provide much needed therapies and quality of life supports. The month of April was a wonderful refresher course and nice introduction for some; however, it is more pertinent in the remaining months than ever to continuously keep a focus on treating Autism.
I have received more contacts from individuals after the run who find themselves in between the rock and the hard place of funding essential therapeutic treatment for their child diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum or providing food, shelter, and what is considered the "basics" of daily living. Being trapped in a swirling eddy of comparing the need to survive and sustain against your loved one's right to thrive is unfathomable for most, especially since Autism is not known for being a fatal affliction.
While Autism is not a terminal disease, symptoms have lead to unfortunate fatalities in our youth and if left untreated the quality of life can be debilitating for the individual and family members. As such, it is our responsibility to continue the brand of Autism Awareness and spread the message that Autism is treatable, treatment is essential, and support is vital.
Will you join me in continuing to "Light it up Blue" for Autism, now that the month of April has passed? Not in donning the color or decorating your home, but in your actions that educate, support, and inform others and yourself. Encourage your Congressman to shoulder his/her support behind HR 2288 Caring for Military Kids with Autism Act, volunteer your efforts to a community event that support autism or log on the Autism Site to get a treat for yourself or someone else, while simultaneously giving. The driving force behind change is support and continued support is vital in the efforts to treat Autism—you make the difference!
Andrekka Lanier is the campaign director for ACT Today! For Military Families — an advocacy group that helps Military families of an autistic child. A Marine spouse and mother of an autistic child, Andrekka can answer questions on special consideration for these unique families.